Three East Bay Cities have decided to reform their elections by implementing Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) in 2010. Berkeley, Oakland, and San Leandro councils have all voted to use RCV, also known as Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), currently used in San Francisco for its supervisoral district and other elections.
RCV lets voters rank candidates simply by marking 1-2-3 on a single ballot to produce a majority winner in a single election. RCV eliminates costly and undemocratic runoff elections, and, some say, rewards candidates that appeal to larger constituencies instead of narrow interests, while helping to minimize the impact of special interest money and spoilers.
According to Public CEO:
After years of efforts in the three Alameda County cities, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen in December approved a computer system for ranked voting submitted by the Alameda County Registrar of Voters (and its contractor, Sequoia Voting Systems).
On Jan. 5, the Oakland City Council voted to use ranked voting in 2010 city elections. Sixty-nine percent of Oakland voters supported a 2006 measure authorizing RCV once the county had an appropriate system in place.
The San Leandro council had a spirited discussion of the merits of RCV on Dec. 7, with the issue tabled until a meeting today, Jan. 19. At that time, San Leandro is expected to vote on a resolution to authorize ranked voting for 2010 city elections and approve a memorandum of understanding to reimburse Alameda County for expenses incurred in preparing for ranked voting.
Berkeley is waiting to see what its share of the reimbursement cost is, which includes waiting to see if San Leandro opts in Jan. 19. A vote for ranked voting in 2010 elections could land on the agenda for council meetings Jan. 26 or Feb. 9, said Julie Sinai, chief of staff for Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.
In all three cities, political discussions are already simmering about which candidates RCV favors — incumbents, better organized candidates, those with significant support in minority communities, etc.
Santa Clara, San Jose, and other Bay Area cities are watching closely. Visit Californians for Electoral Reform for more information about the benefits of preference voting.
“RCV is not well understood by the public, and many simply under vote the ballot,” explained Contra Costa’s elections chief Steve Weir. “A public relations campaign would be required to help voters understand.”
Down the road, see New America Foundation‘s plan for a 360 member unicameral legislature comprised of single seat district representatives combined with a proportional party list.